Full Version: Tournament Section Thoughts
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Yep, it's that time of year again, where I've been set thinking about how we organise tournament sections by the existence of the Hamilton Stars-Barred, as well as by the Lothians Allegro last Saturday. When I raised some issues with the former tournament last year, one reply was the entirely fair point that the Open the year before had attracted 8 entries, whereas the Stars-Barred garnered a rather healthier 24. Moreover, this increase can't wholly be attributed to players simply switching sections - the Minor and Major dropped to 56 between them in 2012 from 64 in 2011, but no further than that.

A couple of people have, on occasion, argued on this noticeboard that since the lower sections tend to be larger than Opens then the occasional perks accompanying congress chess (prize money and live boards, for instance) should be doled out accordingly. After Saturday's tournament - where it was very noticeable that the Open was much smaller than the other sections, with 22 entrants (well, 23, but one didn't turn up) against an average of 46 in the Challengers, Major and Minor - I started wondering about the extent to which this is true.

Accordingly, I took a look at the entries to congresses last year (so there's a full set to compare; one year is a rather small sample, but I couldn't be bothered with more) to see what emerged. I considered the entries to all sections in the Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Glenrothes, Grangemouth, Lothian, Marymass, Oban, Perth and Prestwick Congresses - those that I considered qualified as full-scale weekenders with an Open section. To cut a long story short, there's not very much of a difference - Opens had a mean of 31.4 entrants, with 33.0 for the 28 other sections (most tournaments following the Open-Challengers-Major-Minor model, some eschewing the Challengers and Edinburgh having five sections). It occurred to me that the large prize funds at Edinburgh and Dundee might be affecting things: when you take those two congresses out of the dataset the averages drop to 26.6 and 30.8, which is a bit more of a gap, but still not huge. (For what it's worth, the single smallest section was the Lothians Open, at 17.) I'm not really sure where all of this points, but I thought it was worth taking a look at. (I was expecting a much bigger gap: this makes the Hamilton Open's tiny 2011 entry look very strange indeed, and I'd be interested to know if anyone has an explanation.)

The second issue I was wondering about is an idea I've had before. I'd like to know how players would react if the organisers of one tournament, rather than publishing grading bands, simply announced that there would be four sections (say) and that entrants would be allocated to one or another based on their rating, to ensure roughly equal numbers in each section, which has obvious implications for the speed at which a tournament can be run (accordingly, it might be especially handy for an allegro, where round-to-round turnover is more important). Obviously that would need some tinkering to work (perhaps players could be asked to indicate when entering if they would like to play up to face stronger opposition, in which case they could be placed in a higher section than their grade alone would suggest; some kind of system like this would be crucial for improving juniors, for instance), and the boundaries would need to be drawn with care to avoid isolating players, while it might also be a good idea to accompany this with relatively beefed-up grading prizes to compensate for the difficulty in entering tournaments looking to win the things. As a basic principle, however, it might solve some of the problems of lopsided tournaments like Saturday's.

Anyway, that's an extremely long and seriously rambling post, but any thoughts on any of it are very welcome.
My initial thoughts:
I think the debate has moved on a bit in the last 12-18 months.
2010-11 was a particularly bad year for Open attendances at certain tourneys. Specifically: the East of Scotland (11 entries), Hamilton (8 entries), Prestwick (16 entries), the West of Scotland (12 entries) and to an extent Lothians (21 entries).

In 2011-12, Hamilton changed to a Stars Barred, the East of Scotland became part of Edinburgh and Prestwick had the Sarunas factor, the West of Scotland and David Congalton's tireless efforts to get as many entrants as possible. This all bumped up the mean attendance at the events you used for 2011-12 but admittedly not by much at all. I need to do some more analysis of the size of the Challengers, Majors and Minors before I comment on those.

In principle, I still believe that prize money should be dictated by the size of the section but I have no objection to the Open prizes being beefed up by sponsorship with some subsidy (if you like) from the other sections. However, sometimes this balance is horribly wrong.

I will probably add more but I have a game in the Ayrshire Championships tonight and have to go. Sorry Hugh! ;P
I've been living in Finland for the past 5 years or so and this is how they run the weekend tournaments: you send an entry (including your rating), you actually have to register at least an hour before the start of round 1 (can be done by phone) and then they split it into equal sections.

I think this is preferable for a variety of reaons, albeit I've always been in the top section - people near the usual cutoff might have other ideas.

There are occasional modifications:

1) One club* organises two weekenders a year where the top section consists of the 16 highest rated entries and is FIDE rated
2) Over Christmas and Easter long congresses are run where the top 8-12 (depending how many rounds they run) are put into an all-play-play "Master" tournament and then the rest are split into equal sections to run as swisses.

* Weekenders are generally run by clubs to raise money for their finances. When you have to pay 800-1000 euros to send your 8 person team to play a league match at the opposite end of Finland, this is necessary.
How about no prize money for anyone?

E2E4 run some events that have small sections (10 players from memory) that are all play all and which offer no financial rewards. Not sure exactly how the entry fees are used but I know Jonny has enjoyed playing in these. As the draw is know in advance one has the chance to prepare, though with two games a day its not ideal.

The top sections attract seriously strong players.

The playing venues have been great and relatively easy to get to.
I suppose no prize money has its merits. As most people don't receive prizes or expect to, there would probably be enough people interested in such a format. However I would prefer there were more prizes than doing away with them!

Sectional tournamets are always going to be at the mercy of fluctuating numbers. If we had 50+ averages across the sections a dip would not cause much of a problem, but as we are at the 30 odd average these falls lead to the examples given by Hugh.

A possible solution is to reduce the number of sections. My preference would be to have two sections, a top section, which would have a grading floor with discretion for fastly improving players, and a development section. I believe this format could offer prizes for the top 5 in the higher section with several beefed up grading prizes to compensate for the loss of sectional prizes. I would also suggest just having grading prizes in the development section.

More entrants per section and more prizes per congress, assuming everyone doesn't loathe the idea!
this event is run as you suggest Hugh & has been for many years

24 Mar 2013 39th Bourne End One Day Chess Congress, Bourne End Community Centre, Wakeman Road, Bourne End SL8 5SX MAP Contact: David Langford Email: <!-- e --><a href=""></a><!-- e --> Website: <!-- w --><a class="postlink" href=""></a><!-- w --> – Rapid play tournament, divided into sections by rapid play grade of approx. 16-20 players. Comprises 5 rounds, each player having 45 minutes to complete moves.
That's interesting, thanks Jacqui. Do you know how well-supported it typically is in comparison with other allegros in the area?
I think there is some justification for Open sections to be somewhat smaller than the other sections because Open players cover the "tail" of the grading bell curve. They would face a larger grading difference between "top" and "bottom" (and therefore more one-sided games) if the Open was the same size as the others.

I don't think prize money generally affects players' decisions to enter tournaments. Personally, last year I entered under-1900 sections because I was chasing the Grand Prix. This year I'm entering Opens because I'm chasing grading points.
At least for my participation I generally find that main factors that determine it are location, work commitments/time and generally if I feel I'm in form or not. As I've not been playing well and been very busy I've not entered many :\

One thing I'll also note is that East/West of Scotland Open has to me seemed always a bit confusing since they usually have "qualifiers" although it's always left kind of vague whether qualification simply entitles you to a discount in which case to me it would be more of an invitation than qualification although that's me overly obsessed around semantics.

As far as stars barred events go I'm not that keen on them. I remember Lothians Congress used to have a championship limited to edinburgh and then something like an U2050 and it felt more like non-edinburgh players over 2050 were simply excluded. I'll also note that I personally see it as a good opportunity whenever I play a strong opponent since any result is a major achievement and obviously helps players improve a lot more. I think high amount of entries in Scottish Championships last year was down to opportunity to play strong players and glasgow being relatively easily accessible although I won't deny that money also played a big role.

Something that could be food for thought is that I'm unsure to what extent chess congresses have a target demographic other than chess players. For example if Stars-Barred events were to become a feature and let's say it's for U2100 then target demographic I'd assume would be 1900-2100 players that currently cannot play in challengers. Looking at hamilton with a £23 entry fee and £150 first prize I would assume that with the high entry fee to prize ratio that either they had problems getting a cheap venue or that it's mainly aimed for local people or people who don't care about financial side. On the other hand Glenrothes that I think had sponsorship has a higher prize fund thus aiming to attract people from further away to compensate for it's potentially slightly isolated location. Having not really run any congresses I'm unsure how developed business plans are and how much analysis is carried out on future growth prospects, their target market and how successfully they reach it.

Apologies if I'm looking at problem wrong way or if I've strayed slightly off topic
I have two reasons for attending a congress other than my own availabilty and that is location and quality of venue. Whether the prize money is 75p or £300 is not a factor and should not be for anyone under master level. Maybe a wee book prize would be nice to mark the occasion but I would settle for feeling pleased with myself for a few days on the rare occassion that I do well in a tournament. Entry fees all seem to be between £20 and £30 for a congress, I have yet to find one that was not a bargain. The only other factor is accomodation for those who cannot commute. This is when the cost of entering competitions can get expensive although congress organisers are good at advising on well priced hotels and B&Bs. A good mix of grading levels for the different sections across the tournaments ensures more variety in the top placings and in general this seems to be achieved. As for people barred due to grade or where they live fair enough if space is limited otherwise inclusion is better than exclusion.
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